Growing spinach is quite easy if you know what to look out for. You can grow spinach indoors in a pot or, if you have a garden, you can also grow spinach outdoors.
In this complete guide, I will tell you everything, that you have to know about growing spinach like the right type of soil, how to fertilize the plant, the different variants and more.
So let´s get started by looking at the best season to grow spinach.
Best Season to Grow Spinach
Spinach can be grown all year round, which is why it trumps other leafy green vegetables during seasons when they may be in shorter supply.
The best temperature to plant spinach in is at least 45 degrees Fahrenheit, or 7 degrees Celsius. Seeds can also germinate in higher temperatures, too.
The best soil temperature, though is 50 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit, which is around 10 to 27 degrees Celsius. Some cultivars can even tolerate temperatures down to 20 degrees Fahrenheit, or -6 degrees Celsius.
Overall, there isn’t a single best season for growing spinach.
If growing spinach in the tropics when it is hot all year round (including subtropical zones), grow it as a bi-annual crop (excluding the very hot summer months).
Prioritize share and water to keep the soil moist and appropriate for their growth. Grow heat-tolerant varieties (e.g. Asian varieties) that will grow slowly and tend to bolt much less.
What Kind of Spinach Variants are There?
Different variants of spinach have different characters, though all are very versatile.
They can be used raw in salad or cooked into a variety of dishes. The two main categories of spinach are about lead shapes and textures: smooth leaf and savoy.
However, all spinach shares the same name: Spinacia oleracea.
Savoy or curly lead spinach tastes and looks better. Having curlier leaves makes this spinach harder to clean and they hold onto dirt and sand more than flat-leaf or smooth leaf spinach. Aside from this, savoy spinach stays fresh for longer, as there is less oxalic acid contained than in flat-leaf spinach.
Flat or smooth leaf spinach is the one chosen to be canned or frozen most often, as this type grows more rapidly and can be cleaned more easily.
Some variants need to grow over winter, resulting in an early spring harvest.
These need plenty of sunlight. Sow these cultivars between August and September.
Always remember to look out for dry periods during the Summer when your plants will require more water. Through sowing your seeds in the late Autumn season, or even in the winter season if you live in a zone with a warmer climate. In the scenario that the ground freezes when your plants have not yet matured, cover the plants well with hay.
When spring returns with warmer weather, remove the hay/ mulch and the plants will begin growing again. This will lead to an earlier harvest. Other ways to protect plants from frost include using a row cover or a cold frame.
Other variants that grow in summer require some shade.
Sow these every few weeks underneath fleece if indoors, or from mid-March until late May if planting outdoors. During the winter, help protect your plants avoid excessive heat loss by covering them with cloches.
Alternatively, cover them first with straw and then with fleece.
Autumn crops are great because of spinach plants like cool, short days. Seed your crops again when August begins, keeping them in the shaded warmth as summer declines.
The latest you choose to sow should be at least 4 to six weeks prior to when frost is first expected for the year. With good watering, they will be ready to harvest when September begins. To plant crops in succession, sow again between every two to three weeks.
Common variants of spinach include:
This is an Autumn or Summer variant.
This spinach grows thick leaves and is slow to bolt.
Palco AGM is both mildew resistant and slow to bolt.
Atlanta AGM is recognized as a typically hardier variant.
This spinach is best for winter growth.
Species that are known to be disease resistant include:
- Nordic IV
Other species that are for Autumn planting include:
- Indian Summer
- Razzle Dazzle
For planting during winter, choose variants out of:
- Bloomsdale Long Standing
- Cold Resistant Savoy
The best variants for container growth are
- Baby’s Leaf Hybrid
There are some spinach alternatives you may have come across.
Spinach alternatives are not the same as spinach variants as they belong to different families altogether.
A common spinach alternative is New Zealand spinach (Tetragonia tetragonioides), which has a similar taste and texture. Another is Malabar spinach (Basella alba), which is a plant that grows as a vine and can grow with a hotter climate than spinach can.
If you pick the leaves past their young stage, the will have a slimy texture.
How to Plant and Grow Spinach?
Spinach needs a good amount of space. When sowing, ensure you dig up around two buckets of sowing material. This material can be any well-decomposed organic matter, such as compost. Additionally, rake up 150 grams of general fertilizer per square meter.
Then during the sowing process, place seeds in 2.5 cm, or inch deep rows.
Place all the seeds 30 cm, or 12 inches away from each other. When your seeds grow into seedlings, thin the crop to make them all 7.5 cm, or 3 inches apart.
Rows should be 1.5 feet apart. Cover them lightly with soil to keep them firmly in place. Water them well, but not to the extent that the soil becomes soggy.
The water should be deep and cover the full depth of the soil. The area around the plants should be weeded regularly.
Seedlings will become germinated within 5 to 14 days, though this is dependent on the exact variety used, as well as the growing conditions used.
Sow either indoors or outdoors directly in the garden when you are aware that the soil is usable. When planting indoors, prepare for the fast growth that spinach is famous for. Transfer them outdoors between two to three weeks after sowing. Spinach is also known for its fast maturation and seed growth. Re-seed them every few weeks so that you can develop your crop size over time.
A top tip to prevent your spinach leaves growing with a bitter taste, give them top-quality soil rich in nutrients due to inclusion of lots of organic matter!
The best Soil for Growing Spinach
The best soil for spinach is well-draining (avoid clogging soil) and has a neutral pH.
Note that spinach plants do not grow best if the soil they are grown in has a pH below 6.0. For optimal conditions, go for soil that has a pH between 6.5 and 7.5, though neutral soil is best.
Pick soils with high nitrogen content, as this will support the high metabolic demands of the fast-growing crop. Nitrogen is needed for the darkest and healthiest leaves.
If you are stuck for ideas about the best organic matter for spinach soil, fish emulsion and soy meal are great choices. Mix the organic matter in with the soil bed before planting your spinach.
Other options are well-rotted compost and aged manure.
Where Should I plant Spinach?
Sunny spots are better if planting spinach in Autumn, due to shorter days and less intense sunlight exposure.
Shady spots are better if planting in the Spring and Summer, especially during the afternoon. For subtropical and tropical climates, shade is very important.
How to Water Spinach?
Water stagnation can quickly ruin spinach crops due to encouraging fungal disease and rot.
Avoid wetting the actual foliage – water at the base. The soil should be moist, not soggy and should be well-drained.
You may have heard of interlacing plants in the same soil.
Try not to interlace spinach plants in flower beds as this will make them more vulnerable to insectoid pests. Shadier areas in fenced-in vegetable gardens can be great for spinach interlacing spinach plants as other vegetable plants would not do so well.
Other shadier areas could be from the shade case by taller vegetable plants. Alternatively, plant them near other plants that will also grow rapidly, so they cast shade onto your spinach. Pole beans and corn are excellent choices.
Mid-growing season, top up the growing soil with more organic matter such as compost, kelp and blood meal. This will allow the process of continually producing young and tender leaves.
If you do not want to do this, ensure you fertilize the soil well prior to planting with a 10-10-10 fertilizer.
Growing Spinach in a Container
You can grow spinach in a container. As mentioned already, there are certain variants of spinach that are best for this purpose. The best variants for container growth are Baby’s Leaf Hybrid and Melody.
Growing spinach in containers can be the more ideal scenario if your garden is short for space or has many pests such as rabbits.
The containers you choose can be as small as 10 to 12-inch pots, or even window boxes. Wooden boxes and crates also work well. The same garden planting guidance should be followed, though it is best if you water more frequently, as containers dry out faster than soil in the garden.
The pot you use should be at least 20 cm or 8 inches deep.
If you use a seed tray, leave them alone in there until 2 to 3 true leaves appear on each plant, before transplanting them into bigger pots with care. When choosing a pot, go for a wider pot over a deeper pot.
Growing Spinach Indoors
When growing spinach indoors, it’s crucial to remember that your plants still need either full sun exposure or only partial shade.
Windowsills are great places, as there is a good amount of sunlight that won’t usually become too intense for your spinach plants. Always remember to ensure your pots are at least 6 inches deep.
To make your windowsill more varied, also plant herbs and seasonal flowers.
Provide a very good source of nitrogen for your spinach crops. Time-based fertilizer can be used when planting, or compost or well-rotted manure. These will all provide the nutrients required by spinach slowly.
Manure tea is another good option. Feeding plants in the middle of their growth can be an alternative to time-based fertilizers. Use a liquid fertilizer that is well-balanced, at regular intervals.
Mulching with organic matter helps to retain soil and plant moisture, even if you are only working with spinach growing in pots.
Common Pests with Spinach Plants
Many different birds cause problems when growing spinach.
The main bird pest is the pigeon, which like many other birds can eat different parts of the plant. They may eat seedlings, buds, the fruits and leaves and other vegetative parts of the plant.
Aphids are an insectoid pest that can actually spread viruses within your plants.
Rabbits and other herbivorous four-legged animals.
Leaf miners often found on the undersides of leaves.
How to Get Rid of Spinach Pests
To steer clear of birds, cover them with a material such as net or fleece. Other ways to get rid of birds include scarecrows, which work by scaring the birds away.
The former method is known to be more reliable and effective. Whenever you spot aphids on your spinach crops, hose them off straight away.
You should also regularly monitor your spinach crops for aphids. To look for leaf miners, look for tunnels in the leaf – destroy these leaves.
If you find eggs under the leaves, crush them. Incorporate floating row covers helps to repel them too.
Other Common Problems Faced When Growing Spinach
Bolting is a term for when plants both flower and seed before they normally do (prematurely). Bolting tends to happen as the weather gets warmer.
To prevent this, you can find varieties of spinach that are bolting resistant. This may not be the best idea if you are growing your spinach for seed, though. It can help to stop sowing your spinach seeds between May and June.
If you wish to extend the sowing season, plant them in the shade of the taller plants, and keep watering them well.
Spinach downy mildew is a type of mildew that targets spinach crops when the weather is mild and humid. Wet weather can extend the issues caused by even the best-grown garden plants. The effect of spinach downy mildew is to make leaves unappetizing.
Spinach downy mildew is essentially a type of fungal disease that targets spinach because of the cool and damp weather. It causes a blue mold.
To avoid this, always leave ample space around your plants for optimal air circulation. Water your plants at their base. Keep water off leaves when it is the evening. You can also opt to grow mildew-resistant varieties of spinach.
Another type of fungal disease the spinach plant is prone to is called fusarium wilt.
How to Harvest Spinach Plant Crops
It’s important to harvest your spinach crops regularly.
A few weeks after sowing and growing seedlings, harvest every other plant. Four to six weeks is the best time to harvest spinach crops, and from then on a continual basis whenever the leaves are big enough in your opinion.
There is a method of spinach harvesting called the “cut and come again” method. To follow this, cut laves one by one from the older, outer leaves being the first to be removed.
Preserve the inner and younger leaves to keep growing for the next harvest.
Harvesting depends on the type of spinach you are growing. For summer-grown spinach, harvest the whole crop between late May and late October. Winter-grown spinach should be harvested between October and April.
If you harvest the whole plant, bear in mind that it is likely your spinach plants will keep growing new leaves if you cut above an inch up from the base/ crown. So, you may harvest the whole plant, but leave a little bit!
Continual harvesting of the leaves can be done after letting the plant grow to a larger size. Continual harvesting is possible once there are five or six wide leaves on a plant.
Benefits of Spinach
Spinach goes by many names: Persian vegetable and palak being two other ones.
As a leafy green vegetable that has been cultivated for over 2000 years, spinach is very high in many metal minerals such as iron and potassium, and vitamins such as vitamins A, C and K thiamine and folic acid (a B complex vitamin). It also includes both lutein and zeaxanthin, which are important carotenoids.
Tipps on Using Spinach
Ensure you wash your spinach very thoroughly, as leaves hold onto soil very well. The leaves you harvest will also be sensitive to ethylene gas from fruits. For this reason, avoid storing spinach in the fridge with other fruits, especially apples, melons and tomatoes.
It is easy to freeze spinach for later use, which is very handy if you have a large harvest.
First, wash the leaves thoroughly and allow to dry for a few hours. Then, place them in a resealable freezer bag. You can freeze straight away or cook them slightly by placing the bags in hot water for a couple of minutes.
Let the bags cool slightly before placing them in the freezer. Use within three to six months.